HRC is horrified to learn of the death of Jaheim Pugh Jaheim Barbie, who may also have used the name Bella, a 19-year-old Black gender non-conforming person killed in Prichard, Ala. Jaheim Pugh Jaheim Barbie was killed on December 13, in a shooting after a Christmas party that also injured two others. HRC has now tracked at least 42 deaths this year of transgender and gender non-conforming people. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.
On December 18, Jaheim Pugh Jaheim Barbie’s family held a celebration of life, including a motorcade and gathering. Fox 10 reports Jaheim Pugh Jaheim Barbie’s mother saying that Jaheim identified as both a man and a woman; she believes Jaheim was targeted because of wearing a dress. Jaheim was reported to be in the early stages of transitioning. Friends are remembering Jaheim Pugh Jaheim Barbie on social media as “the life of the party,” “such a bright light” and “so loving.” Many friends and family are also sharing how much they will miss Jaheim, as well as photos and videos of time spent together.
“Jaheim Pugh Jaheim Barbie was just at the beginning of living life. Jaheim did not deserve to have that life cut short — none of the transgender and gender non-conforming people killed this year deserved that,” said HRC Alabama State Director Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey. “No one should face discrimination or violence because of who they are, what they wear or how they look. To truly end the epidemic of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people, we must work together to dismantle the stigma and bias that so many face. It will take all of us.”
HRC has officially recorded more violent deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people than any year since we began tracking this violence in 2013. Previously, the highest known number of deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people over a 12-month period was in 2017, when we reported 31 people violently killed.
A suspect has been arrested and charged with murder in the shooting. More than 10,000 hate crimes in the U.S. involve a firearm each year, which equates to more than 28 each day, according to a report from HRC, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, Giffords Law Center and Equality Florida titled “Remembering and Honoring Pulse: Anti-LGBTQ Bias and Guns Are Taking Lives of Countless LGBTQ People.” The report also notes a marked increase in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, especially against transgender people. Three-fourths of homicides against transgender people have involved a gun, and nearly eight in 10 homicides of Black trans women involve a gun. Further, advocates saw a 43% increase in the formation of anti-LGBTQ hate groups in 2019.
At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Alabama are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Alabama does not expressly include gender identity or sexual orientation in its hate crimes law. Nationally, despite some marginal gains that support and affirm transgender people, the past few years have been marked by anti-LGBTQ attacks at all levels of government.
We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation at the local, state and federal levels, while also considering every possible way to make ending this violence a reality. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive, so we must all work together to cultivate acceptance, reject hate and end stigma for everyone in the trans and gender non-conforming community.
In order to work towards this goal and combat stigma against transgender and non-binary people, HRC has collaborated with WarnerMedia on a PSA campaign to lift up their voices and stories. Learn more and watch the PSAs here.
In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on transgender people. HRC, Media Matters and the Trans Journalists Association have also partnered on an FAQ for reporters writing about anti-trans violence. For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/transgender.